Scientists hope to use stem cells in regenerative medicine.
Pluripotent cells are stem cells that can generate all of the different cell types in the body.
During the aging process, from embryo to adult, a mosaic of tiny genetic changes take place in a person's body cells.
The majority of these mutations have no impact. However, some can lead to cancer.
Prof. Allan Bradley and colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK, together with researchers from the University of Cambridge and the European Bioinformatics Institute, set out to map the whole journey that iPS cells will take when used in clinical therapy.
It was the first time researchers tracked genetic mutations gathered by iPS cells grown in the lab, and also for scientists to calculate and compare the mutations of the donor cell and the iPS cell.
Mutation risk lower in stem cells than in lab-grown blood cells
Starting with blood cells donated by a 57-year-old man, they tracked the genetic changes in both the donated blood cell and the iPS cells that were derived from it.
The scientists found that mutations occur 10 times less often in iPS cells than they do in lab-grown blood cells. Moreover, none of the iPS-cell mutations are in genes related to the development of cancer.
Lead researcher Dr. Foad Rouhani says:
"None of the mutations we found in induced pluripotent stem cells were cancer-driver mutations or mutations in cancer-causing genes. We didn't find anything that would preclude the use of iPS cells in therapeutic medicine."
The team also reprogrammed iPS cells from the donated blood cells and used them to track the history of every mutation that one cell developed, from the stage of fertilized egg until it was extracted from the body.
Prof. Bradley comments:
"If human cells are really to be reprogrammed on a large scale for use in regenerative medicine, then understanding the mutations the donor cells carry will be a crucial step. We now have the tools to do this."
Coauthor Dr. Kosuke Yusa says that the discovery that iPS cells can serve as a tool to uncover the genetic history of a single cell is exciting.
The team hopes that the findings will provide insight into how mutations can lead to cancer, and when and why this happens. They also hope that the results will help researchers to improve methods for generating iPS cells.
Dr. Yusa emphasizes the need to characterize the cells to a high degree before using them, in order to know where mutations occur.
When genetic changes do take place in iPS cells in the lab, the team believes this could be due to oxidative stress.
Medical News Today reported recently that scientists using stem cells have successfully grown skin with hair follicles and glands.